COMMUNITY SPIRIT STRONG AMONG FILIPINOS AFFECTED BY TORNADO

By Don Tagala and Nadia Trinidad, ABS CBN North America Bureau

May 21, 2013

It was like a scene from the movie “Twister” – a 2-mile-wide howling tornado ripping through and leveling a suburb– only this time it’s for real. Original death toll reports ranged from 51 to 91 people. But medical examiners lowered that count to 24 deaths, attributing earlier numbers to possible double-counting.

About than 240 people were injured—at least 60 of them were children, according to hospital reports.

The storm’s winds were estimated to be at 200 mph.

Filipino community leader Violeta Ostrom was less than 20 miles away when the tornado touched down in Moore.

“It’s scary, especially that we used to live in that area. I was there in 2003 to 2004, we lived there,” she recalled, “the siren plus the hail, your house is like somebody’s throwing stones at your home you know. That is so scary, I’m still shaking.”

The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC said that while one Filipino was displaced after his home was displaced in Moore, there were no reported Filipino casualties in Oklahoma and parts of the US Midwest.

Consular officials were able to talk to Rev. Paul De Guzman, who ministers at the Philippine International Baptist Church in Moore.

De Guzman told the embassy that 70 of 80 families that go the church along 400 Crestmoore Drive in Moore are Filipinos. The church is two blocks south of the path of the tornado.

The Filipino community in Oklahoma is mobilizing members in an effort to help ‘kababayans’ affected by the deadly tornado.

“I’m trying to call everybody you know, because we have a listing of Filipinos, that are members of the organization. We’re trying to get in touch with each other and the telephone lines are so messed up here, like last night you can hardly contact anybody,” Ostrom said.

Firefighters, police, national guard members and volunteers worked by flashlight overnight and into Tuesday morning to search for survivors and victims.

Air national guard members brought in thermal imaging equipment to aid in the search.

More than 100 people had been pulled from the rubble alive since Monday afternoon, according to the state highway patrol.

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